Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.—Berthold Auerbach, poet and author
I can chart the course of my life through song from the earliest days when my parents’ hi-fi played Oklahoma, The King and I, My Fair Lady and the Sound of Music. Through teen years, college, marriage, raising kids, business started and shuttered, parents departing too soon, music has been my balm and touchstone to the times mere memory obscures.
My first album was Carol King’s Tapestry. Each song seemed to express the longing of my 13-year-old heart for love and adventure. When I was an insecure girl searching for lasting friendships, You’ve Got a Friend promised a BFF wasn’t far off. Natural Woman gave me hope of future beauty and love. Tapestry spoke of a life fulfilled and no fear of the great beyond. Heady stuff for a tender age. My much loved LP, cover scratched with age now, traveled to college, New Hampshire and Syracuse. Yet the words remain timeless as I listen today on my iPad or phone.
I knew Mark was my musical soul mate through our mutual love for Harry Chapin and Cat Stevens— troubadours singing about everyday moments, family and the search for meaning in life. As newlyweds masquerading as journalists, we sat 10 feet from Cat Stevens turned Yusuf Islam in a press conference on his trip to Syracuse. In 2014 we had the transcendent experience of Cat/Yusuf’s first US concert tour in 20 years, part of the Boston peaceful boomer crowd singing along to the familiar lyrics.
Our wedding first dance was to Cat Stevens’ Foreigner Suite. Pre-wedding, Mark would sing the words to me as we practiced in our living room, “The moment you walked inside my door I knew that I need not look no more…” Father & Son is the primer for advice given to sons eager to explore the world. Adam and Alex have heard the lessons distilled from Cat’s wisdom many times over.
Amazing Grace comforted me through pregnancy, raising babies and our parents’ funerals. The simple melody and words are so consoling although I do not think myself a wretch. I sang this softly so often while carrying the boys and then as a lullaby rocking sleepy babies. Later walking behind caskets, tears choking my throat.
My Funny Valentine on the Carly Simon My Romance album whisks me back to homegrown Valentine’s Day parties with our sweet boys. Listening now, I instantly transport to the living room at Miles Ave. holding 3-year-old Adam in my arms slow dancing as he croons the words into my ear, delightfully off key and misspoken, but so dear.
The Lion King and Little Mermaid sound tracks played endlessly in our living room. These movies encouraged our young sons to step into their power and pursue their dreams despite villains and tough odds. For this Momma too. Circle of Life and Part of Your World were my muse as I crafted my needlework business. The majestic notes and lyrics filled me with strength to conquer self-doubt that comes part and parcel with entrepreneurship.
Halloween kicks off each year with the stereo cranked to the max as Jack Skellington laments his quest for purpose in Nightmare Before Christmas. The Phantom of the Opera conjures intense emotion as I decorate the house with our considerable collection of memorabilia gathered over 30+ years. I happily remember taking the boys to Toronto to see this show when they were six. They were awe-struck with its grandeur and mystery.
Enter the 90’s with Springsteen and E-Street Band. Thunder Road, Born to Run, I’m on Fire. These were anthems of boldness, grit and heat. On the softer side were Natalie Merchant, Bette Midler, Jewel. James Taylor is my perennial favorite. It’s so hard for me to believe James is 67 because he is frozen in digital space as a 30-something rocking out and singing ballads. We had the good fortune to see James, The Boss, Elton John and Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder and Ringo Star concerts, and Paul McCartney at Fenway Park in 2013. For a guy in his early 70’s, Sir Paul has more stamina than those half his age. Hey Jude, Live and Let Die and Yesterday wound through my teen years and 20’s straight through present day.
Forever Young is the love song I wished I’d written for my children. When the boys were babies, I’d hear this song and my heart would swell with hope for their futures, as I realized that our time would pass more quickly than I wanted. Now, eyes closed, I see twin toddlers, then small boys, moving through their days on their way to adulthood. Bright eyes, eager smiles, dimples and chubby legs give way to lean, lanky teen bodies, and grown men who have beards, jobs and lives separate from mine. Yet the threads of the melody connect us to all the years past.
My dream job was working for the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra in 2011, though I didn’t realize that’s what it would become at the time I accepted the position. A classical music neophyte, I loved learning about the great masters, sitting in the concert hall as the maestro raised the baton and the pause just before this magnificent orchestra filled our minds and hearts. The Hallelujah Chorus and Nutcracker Suite are more vivid now because I saw the musicians pour their hearts and souls into the music then. Try as we might, we couldn’t keep the music playing as the SSO succumbed to changing tastes, bad economy and reduced funding. But lord how we tried.
Phillip Phillips song Home was my anthem when we were moving to Baltimore in 2013. Sweet pupper Fenway patiently listened to the continual loop of this song as we traveled to Green Lakes for our morning run each of our remaining days in Syracuse. The lyrics, “hold onto me as we go… I’m gonna make this place our home” soothed me with Mark’s assurance that our new life would be fine, a new adventure, and he would always be there to see me through.
If I had to pick one song that is my constant, it is of course, Over the Rainbow. How ironic that a song about longing for a different time and place is the one that settles me most into myself, giving me that feeling of home each time I hear it. I loved it from my first movie viewing at age five, as a teen, a new mom singing to my babies, my 40th and 50th birthday parties and everyday moments when I need a boost.
The music that has most affected me opens a treasure chest of experiences. Love, change, independence, home, family—moments that live on through song. What’s your sound track?